– We can't just sit and wait for the government to come up with a strategy for Norrland. We have to take matters into our own hands, says Markus Gustafsson, who co-founded Minddig together with Chana Svensson.
Gustafsson was the one who brought together the T25 group, the collaborative body that includes all major players in the new industry and LTU (Luleå University of Technology). The purpose was to create a platform to address the immense challenge of workforce development.
From that initiative, Minddig emerged.
Now, two other bottleneck sectors where frustration is growing have been identified. Issues that are hindering development and need to be addressed as soon as possible:
- Financing of infrastructure.
- Financing of housing.
The municipalities are small and lack resources. The government and state have shown limited interest, while companies believe it is the responsibility of the authorities.
– Currently, everyone is standing on the sidelines and calling for the state's intervention. I believe this is a dangerous path. If the state is the one setting the pace, we have no control over our own development. Moreover, there is a risk of politicization, with the north versus the south. The state should certainly be the majority investor in infrastructure, but other actors can also take responsibility.
Who are we talking about then? Markus Gustafsson believes that everything boils down to leadership.
– Who takes the baton? Who is willing to take risks? Who dares to drive the development forward?
At the same time, Gustafsson argues that the investment climate for projects involving shared financing between private and public actors is temporarily stagnant following the failure of Nya Karolinska (New Karolinska Hospital).
– If you present the entire range of projects in the north, they will be completely uninteresting as a whole. However, there are numerous projects where private capital is appropriate.
To shed light on the issue, Minddig has organized an event, taking place today, Friday. Among the participants are representatives from the Wallenberg-owned bank SEB and the international consulting giant McKinsey & Co.
The mission is to find alternative forms of financing.
One specific proposal is to create a fund that can support municipalities and development by financing strategically important infrastructure for society, such as railways, roads, water and sewage systems, and so on.
– McKinsey serves as the primary advisor to all major companies in the north. And bringing in SEB as a co-financier and with the task of assembling the stakeholders is entirely possible. The Wallenberg family has had a connection to northern Sweden since World War II, and Markus Wallenberg was the chairman of LKAB. I know they have their eyes on what is happening here now, says Gustafsson.
In a major interview with Dagens Industri, Jacob Wallenberg, chairman of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and one of Sweden's most influential business leaders, expressed advanced thoughts on alternative financing, as the state's resources are limited.
"I am fully convinced that Sweden must find other solutions, where we allow private capital to supply financing. If you ask those who manage the pension funds, they are eager to invest in infrastructure. Long-term, secure investments that provide a fundamental return are what pension funds really want. But they are not allowed to because the state does not accept it. There are two exceptions, the Øresund Bridge and the Arlanda Express, but we have much greater needs than that," says Wallenberg to DI, mentioning investments in electricity supply and grid infrastructure as well.
Gustafsson believes that the pension funds should be significant financiers in a regional fund.
– What could be more fitting than using our own pension funds to build our future? The state should, of course, participate. Additionally, one could consider green infrastructure funds as potential stakeholders.
A fund can also make investments in housing.
– In the long run, a fund can take on more risk than housing companies because it can afford to wait for the growth that will come in the future."
Participants and speakers, in addition to Minddig's founders Chana Svensson and Markus Gustafsson, are Boden municipal councilor Claes Nordmark (S), Norrbotten regional councilor Anders Öberg (S), Carl Wangel (SSAB), Karin Ahnqvist (Umeå municipality), Anne Graf (H2 Green Steel), Pia Lindström (LKAB), Karin Holmqvist (Swedish Space Corporation), Mats Rönnbo (Skanska), Fredrik Indebetou (Wa3rm), Jonas Söderberg (SEB), Robert Westerdahl (McKinsey & Co).